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AAPG Bulletin


Volume: 28 (1944)

Issue: 10. (October)

First Page: 1485

Last Page: 1505

Title: World Petroleum Reserves and Petroleum Statistics

Author(s): G. C. Gester (2)


Unquestionably, the Age of Oil is with us now and it probably has not as yet reached its majority. Petroleum in its common forms has become a part of our daily life. The United States has not only been the greatest oil-producing nation in the world; it has also been the greatest consumer. After the war we shall unquestionably continue to be one of the greatest users of petroleum, but the world-wide demands also will be greater.

Wallace E. Pratt is quoted as saying that oil in the earth is abundant. We shall not try to refute that general statement. Rather, let us see how much oil the Good Earth has produced in the past; what it is now producing; and where the presently known areas of petroleum abundance are located. Furthermore, and this should concern us most, what does the future hold for the United States? We have to the best of our knowledge less than half of the known petroleum reserves of the world, but we are producing yearly approximately 65 per cent. This ratio of known production to reserves is not just a wartime development--it has been going on for years. We have been prodigal with our oil supplies and we must now recognize the world-wide importance of petroleum and the desirability of having a d finite governmental policy for maintaining a strong industry with adequate reserves, both domestic and foreign. The record of accomplishment of the petroleum industry in the United States is of the highest order and if free and independent industry is permitted the right of way, unhampered by Government control, but, in lieu thereof, aided by a sympathetic understanding of the industry's problems, the petroleum independence of the United States will be preserved.

Statistics show that the United States has had a cumulative production amounting to 28 billion barrels of oil compared with 15½ billion barrels for the rest of the world. Our proved reserves, according to the estimates of the American Petroleum Institute, total 20 billion barrels compared with an indicated oil reserve of 31-41 billion barrels for all other producing countries. During 1941, the last year for which accurate world production figures are available we produced more than 63 per cent of the total world's production. Furthermore, our areas favorable to oil accumulation have been and are being exploited to a far greater extent than those in many other parts of the world.

Estimates of the indicated crude-oil reserves of the world range from approximately 51 to 61 billion barrels. They are unevenly distributed over the face of the globe. Two areas of similar size on the opposite sides of the world, the Persian Gulf and Caspian Basin in the Old World and the countries of Venezuela, Colombia, Mexico, and the United States in the New World, have more than 95 per cent of the indicated reserves of the world.

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